On This Day: Robert F. Kennedy Dies at the Age of 42 After Assassination in 1968

by Brandi Stillings
Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

On June 5, 1968, Senator Robert Frances Kennedy was assassinated. The next day, 53 years ago today, he passed from his injuries.

Also referred to by his initials “RFK” or nickname “Bobby,” he worked mainly as a lawyer and politician. In addition to serving in the U.S. Navy for two years, he was his brother’s closest advisor.

Kennedy served as the 64th U.S. Attorney General from January 1961 to September 1964. Then, as a Senator for New York in 1965 until his death in June 1968. Like his brothers John and Edward, he was a prominent member of the Democratic Party. Some historians viewed Kennedy as an icon of modern American liberalism.

Recognized as an advocate for civil rights, Kennedy strongly supported the movement. According to History, he was opposed to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. During his tenure, he stood up for issues related to human rights, and social justice.

In the summer of 1968, Americans faced tumultuous times. The Vietnam War and anti-war movement were peaking. The following spring in 1969 was the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Along with it, countless riots broke out across the country.

President Lyndon B. Johnson decided against a second term in the upcoming election. Stepping in to fill the vacancy, Robert Kennedy, John’s younger brother, entered the presidential candidacy.

Also the article reads, after winning California’s primary, Kennedy was in the position to receive the Democratic nomination and face off against Richard Nixon in the general election.

Robert F. Kennedy’s Assassination

Soon after midnight, on June 5, 1968, Kennedy won the California presidential primary. Then, he left the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles to let his supporters know about his victory. After the announcement, he was shot several times. The shooter was a 24-year-old Palestinian named Sirhan Sirhan. Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1:44 a.m. the next day.

Star athletes of the era Rafer Johnson and Roosevelt Grier exited the hotel with Kennedy. Sirhan Sirhan walked towards them while hiding his .22 revolver inside a rolled up campaign poster. When he took those fatal shots Kennedy was only a foot away.

Johnson and Grier quickly tackled Sirhan to the ground. Afterwards, Grier felt guilty and blamed himself for the fatal shooting.

Sirhan confessed to the crime at the trial, receiving a death sentence on March 3, 1969. However, in 1972, the California State Supreme Court still hadn’t approved the death penalty.

He spent the remainder of his life in prison. According to the New York Times, he has since said that he believed Kennedy was “instrumental” in the oppression of Palestinians.